Pittsburgh, Pa., May 25, 2017 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- On Tuesday, a “Consistent Life Ethic” group was booted from sponsorship of the Pittsburgh March Against War after Facebook complaints against their pro-life stance.
Rehumanize International, previously Life Matters Journal, is a group that opposes all violence against human beings, including abortion, war, euthanasia, torture, capital punishment and human sex trafficking.
They were invited to co-sponsor the Pittsburgh March Against War, set to take place this summer, and were then removed from sponsorship after a vote of the other co-sponsors, following several complaints on the event’s Facebook page.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Facebook page for the March event had been deleted.
The Pittsburgh March Against War was organized by the Pittsburghers in Solidarity Against War, a coalition consisting of several organizations: the Anti-War Committee of the Thomas Merton Center, Veterans for Peace, CAIR Pittsburgh, International Socialist Organization – Pittsburgh, Socialist Alternative, Party for Socialism and Liberation, ANSWER Coalition, WILPF Pittsburgh, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Redneck Revolt.
CNA reached out to all of the co-sponsor groups and the March event’s main e-mail for comment on this story, but did not receive any responses, aside from the Thomas Merton Center, by press time.
Aimee Murphy, Executive Director of Rehumanize International, said that she was first invited by one of the co-sponsors to a meeting about the Pittsburgh March Against War, a grassroots event scheduled to take place July 1 at the Schenley Plaza. Murphy previously hadn’t heard about the March, but wanted her organization to get involved after attending the meeting.
Murphy said she introduced herself, as well as the vision of Rehumanize, at the meeting and handed out her card to multiple people before her organization was added to the sponsors of the event.
“I handed out my card and said yeah, we’re kind of new to this, but check us out. So people in the roundtable had ample opportunity to vet us before they ever added us to the event, and they didn’t,” Murphy told CNA.
Once the group was added to the list of sponsors on the Facebook event, attendees began researching the group and complaining about Rehumanize’s pro-life stance in Facebook comments.
While the event page was deleted Wednesday, Murphy saved screenshots of some of the comments.
“…I can’t and won’t march alongside a group that equates my choices as a person with a uterus and my work as a scientist with war and imperialism. It’s dehumanizing and detrimental to the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement overall…” Abby Cartus wrote in Facebook comments on the event.
“I definitely believe Rehumanize was passed off as an anti-war group,” wrote another commenter, who amended her comment to be “an anti-war group only.”
In a Medium post, Patrick Young said that most people involved in Rehumanize “seem like caring and loving people. I do believe that they genuinely intend to be loving and compassionate in their work. They’ve gone to great lengths to separate themselves from the hateful and aggressive anti-abortion advocates that have been so persistent for decades and train volunteers on what they believe is a compassionate approach.”
Nevertheless, he said, they engage in the “abhorrent” practice of approaching women outside of abortion clinics “to guilt and shame women out of choosing to have an abortion,” and therefore he believes they were rightly removed from co-sponsorship of the anti-war march.
The Thomas Merton Center (TMC), which created the event Facebook page, responded that they were listening to concerns and that many of the groups planning the event only became aware of Rehumanize’s ideology “that stand against our human rights” after the Facebook comments.
On Tuesday night, a democratic vote was held with the co-sponsors of the event on whether or not to remove Rehumanize from sponsorship. Murphy said she was included in the call, and the thread of the conversation was whether or not an anti-abortion group could be allowed to sponsor the anti-war March.
As stated on the event page, before it was deleted: "The votes consist of 8-remove, 1-abstain, 2-absent, and 1-remain. Rehumanize International was removed as a member of the organizing group and sponsor of the Pittsburgh March Against War."
A statement on the Rehumanize International Facebook page reads: "Though we know that this is not meant as a personal slight against us, we are disappointed in the decision to exclude pro-life anti-war organizers as we fear it sends a signal to grassroots pro-peace, pro-life people that they are not welcome in the anti-war movement. [As with any social movement dedicated to the abolition of violence,] in order to end the atrocity of war, we need everyone committed to peace."
Murphy said she was “flabbergasted” that a representative of the TMC voted to "remove" Rehumanize, because Thomas Merton was a Catholic, pro-life Trappist monk who believed in a consistent life ethic.
"It seems a little strange that we are so wildly exercised about the ‘murder’ (and the word is of course correct) of an unborn infant by abortion… and yet accept without a qualm the extermination of millions of helpless and innocent adults… I submit that we ought to fulfill the one without omitting the other," Thomas Merton wrote in a letter to fellow activist Dorothy Day on Dec. 20, 1961.
Antonio Lodico, Executive Director of the TMC, told CNA that the involvement of the center in the March was largely through their anti-war committee, which consists of volunteers. Lodico said the TMC did not cast a vote regarding whether or not to remove Rehumanize because they had not had a chance as an organization to meet and discuss beforehand.
The TMC vote was likely a provincial vote cast by a representative of the volunteer group, but one that is considered binding unless the group changes their vote in the future. CNA asked the TMC to be put in contact with their volunteer anti-war committee but did not receive a response by press time.
Lodico added that while the TMC created the Facebook event for the March, they had given admin access to several of the co-sponsor groups and are unsure which group deleted the event.
“You may have received a notification that the Thomas Merton Center deleted the Pittsburgh March Against War Facebook event page. We did not approve deleting this event. A co-host deleted the event. The groups involved in planning this event are just finding out about this now. We acknowledge the labor that went into the education and conversation on the Facebook page and we regret that this effort was lost,” the TMC said in a Facebook post on their page.
This is not the first time that Rehumanize International has been excluded from sponsoring or organizing marches and protests. According to a press release from the group, “leading up to the Women's March earlier this year, they were summarily ignored despite their support of women's rights and nonviolence (while their sister group New Wave Feminists was accepted, then removed as a partner).”
Murphy noted in the press release that Rehumanize will attend the anti-war march regardless of whether or not they are sponsors.
"We are anti-war for the same reason we are anti-abortion: we believe in the inherent dignity of human beings and therefore, that all violence against them is contrary to that dignity," Murphy said.
"Because those who are bombed, aborted, and killed by other acts of aggression cannot afford for us to cease our holistic, human-centered work, we will march on July 1, even if we are unwanted. We will be there, supporting a message for peace and all life."
Following the deletion of the Facebook event, it is unclear whether the March will continue.
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